I saw a lot of frowns and sad faces during Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal today; certainly a lot of you let their voices be heard on social media. While I wouldn’t quite call it the worst console reveal in history (the 360 had a way worse reveal; some of you people sure have short attention spans) the lack of any relevant news about games seemed disconcerting to most, this writer included.
It’s no secret that Microsoft has had aspirations of replacing your cable box and offering a unified, set-top box. Remember Web TV? Remember Microsoft’s odd partnership with Sega on the Dreamcast? Games have always been both a blessing and an albatross hanging around Microsoft’s neck; while their games divisions certainly make the company a lot of money, I’d go as far to say that they’d probably throw that entire audience under the bus if it meant being able to to skulk their way into every living room in America.
Putting aside any obvious jokes about “4” being greater than “One,” I think the Xbox One’s name is fairly symbolic as it represents Microsoft’s grand vision for the collective living rooms of America. It can play both your hardcore nerd games and the dopey party games your non-gamer friends enjoy flirting with. It’ll supplant your cable/digi-box and even add social widgets you can use to call up fantasy league scores and the like—yes I understand nobody’s actually going to use this feature but bear with me, I am making a point. And it’s a better alternative to watch viral media on-demand than losing an HDMI port to a Roku or one of those dorky Android TV sticks.
Instead of chasing down the core gamer, they’re going after the Smart TV/Blu-Ray player crowd this time around. Which I don’t fault them for; it’s smart business: have any of you played around with, say, a Philips Blu-Ray player? The interfaces on those things are terrible. So why bother with those things when you can pick up an Xbox One for a few hundred dollars more and get a snazzier interface to watch movies with the bonus of being able to play the odd video game or two?
Note that I said “America” in a previous paragraph. The new TV-ready features Microsoft revealed today made it seem evident that they’re pretty much jettisoning their foreign markets; probably for good reason. Again, Microsoft has bigger aspirations than focusing on experiences that affect their secondary markets, at least for the moment. This is where you—the Filipino gamer—should be concerned. Hardly any of those fancy features Microsoft showed off today will work on your cable provider’s system (good luck convincing Sky Cable to bring in technology past 1987). Netflix or any of the cloud/streaming services won’t work; either due to geo/IP restrictions or because our local telecommunications providers are plain incompetent and refuse to roll out acceptable internet speeds in this country. You won’t be able to easily hop on PinoyXbox and snag games for cheap.
Suddenly, Microsoft’s vision of a perfect living room collapses once you figure out you don’t live in their Utopia. You sit there—sweat across your forehead—realizing you live not in a perfectly air-conditioned living space, but in a muggy third-world country, overpaying for the paltry 1Mb/s broadband connection you are using to read this post. End game.